Celtics at a crossroads

JET - US PRESSWIRE

Can the Celtics defense catch up to the offense in time to right the ship?

With apologies to Buffalo Springfied, there's something happening here and what it is ain't exactly clear.

The Celtics are either getting things together and slowly building towards being the contender that we all thought they were ...or perhaps they are not. This is mystifying and frustrating for any Celtic fan. Ian Thomsen sums it up pretty well here.

Celtics struggling early in season filled with high expectations - Ian Thomsen - SI.com

The Celtics have dealt with issues every year since their 2008 breakthrough in the NBA Finals, and by the end of each season they've responded proudly. But those issues tended to revolve around their health. As long as they had their health, they knew -- stubbornly and arrogantly -- what they could achieve. They knew who they were.

They don't quite know who they are anymore.

This is a different situation this year, and it arrives amid inflated expectations in Boston. Because the Celtics had deepened their bench, it was assumed that they could and should have enough weapons to challenge Miami after their depleted rotation had taken a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last season. But last year's team was peaking, while this year's Celtics are launching in a new direction.

It is true that last year's team was absolutely playing at their apex during the playoffs. That is why the team needed to deepen the bench and bring in younger legs. It is also clear that they needed to hand the team over to Rajon Rondo. Thomsen makes the case that Rajon isn't used to being the leader and the suspension incident proves that he might still not be up for the task. I'm not sure I agree with that, but we'll just say it remains to be seen.

Things are different this year, though. That much is certain. The team is more offensive minded - or perhaps the more apt description is that the offense is more Rondo minded as he's the straw that stirs this drink night-in-night-out.

The defense is both a concern and the main focal point of most people's future hopes. The thinking is that if the Celtics will eventually come around on defense and turn in another top ranked defense by the end of the year. If that's the case they had better get started soon. They've shown spurts of dominant defense - in particular when Kevin Garnett is on the court and especially down the stretch at the end of games. But they'll need a lot more consistency to carry that throughout the season and into the playoffs.

Hovering around .500 is not going to cut it with this squad. Bringing back Avery Bradley should help out some. But at some point during the next month or so the team is going to have to figure out if they need additional help via trade. Which could be a whole different kind of crossroads to figure out.

Can the Celtics defense catch up to the offense? Or is going to be a long season of ups and downs? They need to start putting things together soon.

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